Durand/Pecatonica was supposed to drop out in class but didn’t.
Stillman Valley dropped – but that didn’t help.
Two-time defending Class 1A champion Lena-Winslow looks like an even bigger favorite than usual in the first three rounds, and NIC-10 champion Boylan should be favored to reach at least the semifinals of the class 5A. But two Rockford-area teams that have looked all year like they could make a long playoff run found their road to a rocky one when the IHSA announced its football playoff pairings on Saturday night.
2022 IHSA Playoffs:Full pairings for high school football playoffs
Here’s a class-by-class look at the road to the playoffs for Rockford-area teams:
The best part of 1A is that there’s a good chance that for the first time in decades, no NUIC team will have to face each other. The only chances would be if Lena-Winslow (9-0) faces Fulton (7-2) in the third round or if Forreston (5-4) and Dakota (5-4) meet in the third round. Both of these schools will have tough first-round matchups, with Forreston at Peru St. Bede (7-2) and Dakota (5-4) at Gilman Iroquois West (7-2).
“Usually it’s a conference tournament,” Le-Win coach Ric Arand said. “It’s great. That’s the great thing about the playoffs; playing with different people and going to places you’ve never been before makes the game a lot of fun.
Rockford Lutheran (5-4) plays in the Big Northern and drops to 1A. If Lutheran can get past Annawan/Wethersfield (7-2), then Aurora Christian (5-4) or Fulton in the second round, the Crusaders, after playing 3A and 4A teams all year, could test themselves against a Le- Win the team that dominated Class 1A.
“That would be a lot of fun,” Arand said. “It would be great to see them, being another team from the 815 area. I’m not worried about (Lutheran playing at bigger schools).
Stillman Valley has won its five state titles in Class 2A or 3A, but has been in 4A for years. The Cardinals (8-1) made the cut for 3A this year, but after losing their season finale on Friday to Genoa-Kingston, they fell to a No. 5 seed. That means after hosting Monmouth Roseville (5-4) in the first round, Stillman would likely face No. 1-ranked Elmhurst IC Catholic (8-1) in the second round.
“If we had won last night, we could have avoided them for a lap or two,” Stillman coach Mike Lalor said. “We would love to see them come back to 4A and clean this thing up.”
Catholic IC is an annual power. Byron upset them last year in the dying seconds en route to winning state.
What we learned:Key takeaways from Week 9 football games in the Rockford area
Du/Pec, who stayed in 3A after four small schools with upset 4-4 records on Friday and snuck into the playoffs, has a very winnable opener against Chicago Catalyst/Maria, but would then draw Braidwood Reed- Custer, ranked No. 2. (9-0) in the second round.
“There are two teams in 3A, IC and the Reed-Custer team, which are once-in-a-lifetime teams that we’ve been hearing about for several years,” Lalor said. “They are the two elite teams in 3A and both are in the northern half of the group. Maybe we can have a bad weather day and find a way to keep it close, but it will be terribly difficult.
Du/Pec have become a NUIC powerhouse for the past three years, but have lost in the second round in the past against 3A teams after playing at 1A schools in the regular season.
“We held on early in the playoffs,” Du/Pec coach Tyler Hoffman said. “In the second round, we didn’t have as many screenings. But at some point, we will take the leap. Maybe it will be this year. There’s nothing that says we can’t run.
“And some of the teams we face in the playoffs don’t make us fear anyone in our conference. When you face Elmhurst IC or Reed-Custer, we won’t see teams like that next year. It makes our offseason much better.
Winnebago (5-4) will start against No. 8-ranked Seneca (9-0). No. 4 Byron (8-1) starts with Lisle (5-4) and then gets the Seneca-Winnebago winner. Byron would not have to meet Reed-Custer before the third round or Elmhurst IC before the semi-finals.
“We were definitely the underdog against IC Catholic last year,” Byron coach Jeff Boyer said. “We are not new to this position. We are used to it. We’ll fly under the radar and our kids will play hard.
Rochelle (7-2) drops to 4A after being in 5A most years and won’t have to face a team ranked in the Associated Press poll until the third round. The Hubs open against Dixon (6-3).
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, like years and years,” Rochelle quarterback Hayden Inman told The Register Star’s Jay Taft. “We’re definitely excited and we’re ready. Our only two losses are against two top-ranked teams. We feel ready to see what we can do.”
Kankakee, ranked No. 1, and Mahomet-Seymour, No. 3, are in the south. And Boylan (8-1) can’t meet No. 2 Sycamore until the semis. Boylan faces Country Clubs Hills Hillcrest (5-4) in the first round before a potentially tough second-round game against traditional powerhouse LaGrange Park Nazareth (5-4) or Glenbrook South (7-2).
After:The Rockford area’s best performances from Week 9 of the high school football season
Belvidere North (7-2) and Harlem (6-3) both had somewhat favorable draws. North gets a rematch against Grayslake Central (6-3) after losing to them last year 27-22 when they were able to miss time after a controversial fourth pass interference call.
“Any time you get the chance to play against a team you didn’t last time out, it gives you a chance to redeem yourself,” North coach Jeff Beck said.
Harlem plays Chicago Amundsen (7-2), which has a far less impressive playoff history than the 6-3 NIC-10 teams the playoffs usually face.
“They don’t have a lot of playoff history, but I’ve seen their best moments,” Harlem coach Bob Moynihan said. “They’re big, they’ve got Division I players and they’re athletic.
“But it’s better to play them than Wheaton-Warrenville South,” Moynihan said of the traditional power Harlem played in his first year as a coach.
Guilford (7-2) gets a home game against Batavia (6-3) and Hononegah (7-2) will host Normal Community (6-3). Batavia was ranked 10th in last week’s AP poll but will likely drop out after losing on Friday.
Matt Trowbridge covered sports for the Rockford Register Star for over 30 years, after previous stints in North Dakota, Delaware, Vermont and three years covering the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.